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Evolutionist Name Calling as a Defense of Their Viewpoint

Man's hand pointing at viewer, photo credit: pixabay

George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, was a socialist who penned the now famous novel 1984 about totalitarianism. Oceania, the ruling territory, used a deceptive language called “Newspeak” to eliminate words and thoughts harmful and challenging to governmental control. The government in Oceania understood that one cannot rebel or protest when one does not even have the means to express one’s protest.

Thankfully, we don’t live in an era such as this, but verbal manipulation is everywhere, particularly among secular liberals and evolutionists. I’ve been studying their arguments for years and have come to the conclusion that philosophical assumptions, fallacies, and clever use of language are used to buttress their Darwinian beliefs about how life is the result of an unplanned process without any divine help at all.

Ad Hominem

In intellectual disputes, a frequent way to discount another’s arguments is to attack people and not the ideas they have. One criticism might go as follows:

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Some people are stubborn adherents to a time once past and clingers to an outmoded way of thinking. They are, perhaps, enslaved by their intellectual passions and need to be released from them. No person would think their way if they thought correctly. They refuse to submit to “modern” thinking and instead remain in their primitive ways. Because of this, their ideas aren’t even worth considering.

No matter what the arguments, the credibility of the person to present their ideas is attacked and, of course, the religious are the ones portrayed this way. This kind of approach colors the arguments presented below.

Atheist Emma Goldman, writing in 1916, says that “The conception of gods originated in fear and curiosity” and quotes “anarchist” Michael Bakunin as saying “All religions, with their demi-gods, and their prophets, their messiahs and their saints, were created by the prejudiced fancy of men who had not attained the full development and full possession of their faculties.”¹

This comment obviously doesn’t take into account any experiences disciples of Jesus had, particularly his resurrection appearances, that convinced them of his divine mission. That’s the point. Goldman wants to paper over anything a religious person believes as coming from an ignorant scared savage.
People like this, per atheist reasoning, are not thinking freely—that is, free from the constraints of primitive unenlightened beliefs. Atheists, however, do think freely from such constraints and freely describe themselves this way.

Dan Barker,² for instance, claims a freethinker is a “person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief.” He also says that “no one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.”

Certainly, Christians can agree with Barker that it is important to form an opinion about any religion based on whether it is true. In fact, not only contemporaries of Jesus but also Christians today believe what they believe about their faith because they believe it is true. However, Barker apparently excludes any belief in the Bible because he can’t believe that adherence to the Bible can be held logically and truthfully.

Later he says the universe is mindless, Darwin’s explanation of evolution has explained the complexity of life, and religious claims have not withstood the tests of reason.³ These are all suppositions that I believe are false or, at the very least, can be logically challenged as being false. From reading Barker, I get the idea he rigidly holds these beliefs while claiming secular beliefs are freely embraced and religious ones are not.

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Similarly, the website freethoughtblogs.com, cofounded by atheist PZ Myers, is described as so:

We are skeptics and critics of dogma and authoritarianism, and in addition, we recognize that the nonexistence of deities entails a greater commitment to human values, and in particular, an appreciation of human diversity and equality.4

Apparently, it is a foregone conclusion to them that God does not exist or they would not go to great pains to point out that the nonexistence of a god creates a greater need among unbelievers to value human choices.

Those who don’t think freely but cling to a religious belief system are often called “fundamentalists.” Steve Allen, comedian and secular critic of Christianity (now dead) describes them:

Just as it is absurd for the fundamentalists, who interpret the entire Bible literally, to deny the existence of evolution, given that the reality of that process is readily observable, it is equally erroneous to suggest that if evolution exists, the mere fact of its existence rules out the possibility that there is a God. In reality, there is no necessary connection or disconnection, between evolution and God. The majority of well-educated Christians and other religionists believe, in fact, that evolution has been God’s practical method of creating and developing all aspects of nature that are alive, which is to say, plants and animals. It is apparently only fundamentalists who are confused about this.5

A few things need to be said about Allen’s comments. First, it’s not true today that a majority of people accept that creation and evolution are compatible, and doubtful it ever was. The Gallup organization polled citizens from 1983 to 2019 over their views of creation and evolution. In 1983, the amount of people who believed humans evolved with God having no part in the process was at nine percent and this increased to twenty-two percent in 2019. Thirty-eight percent of people in 1983 thought humans evolved with God guiding the process and this decreased to thirty-three percent in 2019. The amount of people who believed God created humans in their present form went from forty-four percent in 1983 to forty percent in 2019, a rather consistent number.6

Second, notice the selective use of labeling. According to Allen, fundamentalists are the ones who are biblical literalists while well-educated Christians are the ones who believe evolution and creation are compatible. Sometimes people can believe what they want to for a long time because they think there is truth value to their beliefs. It is no more “fundamentalist” to stubbornly hold such beliefs than it is for a secularist like Allen to demand such people change their ways.

What matters is whether such things are true, and this gets us to the heart of the matter. Allen’s take on Bible believing Christians is meant to color your opinion of them before you research their claims.

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Third, Allen, in his book, gives no evidence he’s considered creationist arguments against evolutionist beliefs quite often revealed in the numerous debates held before he even wrote his book.7 Nor does he understand that most arguments for evolution give examples of evolution within “kinds,” not examples of large scale evolution.

Richard Dawkins uses similar terminology in his writing. Fundamentalists, he says, throw out scientific facts that conflict with the Bible because they base their beliefs on that book alone, while people like him, he says, base their beliefs on scientific evidence. To say that evolution is true is as true as saying New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, he claims.8

Yet, it is clear that Dawkins is as biased in his anti-religious beliefs as any fundamentalist he criticizes. Nobody has ever erected a philosophical system of thought around the Pythagorean theorem or the light from a prism, but people do over Darwin’s essential theory (descent by modification with no divine intervention), and so there must be intellectual baggage attached to it that is pleasing to secular individuals.

Dawkins has said that Darwin made it possible to an intellectually fulfilled atheist, and Dawkins is obviously that. I challenge anyone to read Dawkins and not come to similar conclusions.

After Christian lawyer Phillip Johnson wrote, in the pages of the First Things website, his critique of theistic evolution and the limits to which science can explain natural phenomenon,9 liberal Michael Lind added to the list of pejoratives applied to creationists to note that Johnson’s “cranky views,” are from a “Flat Earther.”

Perhaps, in forthcoming issues, he says, First Things should focus on “fringe topics” as the wood in Noah’s Ark and the Shroud of Turin. Finally, he tells us he prefers his “lunatic fundamentalism” straight from Pat Robertson or Jimmy Swaggart. Johnson responded to Lind to say, quite humorously I might add, that “People sometimes react like Michael Lind when their religion is challenged and they do not know how to defend it with reason.”10

Sometimes critics of evolution, but not creationists, get caught in the name-calling directed at them and their articles. In 1996, Commentary magazine published David Berlinski’s article “The Deniable Darwin” which argued, among other things, that the evidence commonly cited for evidence of evolution does not exist or is unreasonable and that evolutionists frequently cite evidence or processes that have nothing to do with their central theory.

Dawkins replied by calling Berlinski a creationist although Berlinski denied he is one, a “mistake, supported by nothing that I have written.”

The assumption is that only creationists make the arguments Berlinski is making and that their arguments are automatically ruled out as illegitimate. Daniel Dennett, another prominent evolutionist, suggested Berlinski’s article was another demonstration that nonsense can be published as long as one writes in the style the editorial board favors—“inspired silliness” he called the article. Paul Gross, a science writer from the University of Virginia, replied to worry about the encouragement given to creationists and “other consumers of anti-science.”11

Creationism as Hobby, Insanity, or Force-Fed Religion

Yet, this is the tip of the iceberg. Myers, in Ben Stein’s movie Expelled, says that if you separate out the moral aspect of religion, you don’t have much left. This ignores, especially in Christianity, all the other aspects of faith including the prime claim Christians make—that Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

Myers says that religion should be relegated to a hobby, “something fun that people get together and do on the weekend and really doesn’t affect their life as much as it has been so far.”12

So Myers misrepresents Christianity in two ways – first as to what Christianity has to say about reality and second as to the meaning of Christianity in people’s lives.

Adam Rutherford, geneticist and author at the website The Guardian, reflecting on the debate between science writer Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham, calls Ham a “zealot.”

“Hope for enlightenment was dashed though, as Ham trotted out the same old zombie canards” Rutherford tells us. Nothing was gained from the debate, he says, except to give the “cretinism” of creationism its time. If you wrestle with a pig, the pig likes it, and you get dirty, he says.13

Richard Dawkins reflects on a time, in a book review published in the New York Times in 1989, that he wrote that “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”

Dawkins says such a statement has been quoted against him as a sign of his arrogance and intolerance but instead should be read as an example of “undisguised clarity.” Despite that, Dawkins refuses to retract one word of it because what he is saying is “self-evidently true.”14

Yet, nearly half of Americans do not believe in evolution, and to insist that all these people are as he describes them is ludicrous. Furthermore, what does Dawkins do with secular people who have changed their minds and do not believe a mindless process like evolution can produce life? Are they ignorant, stupid, or insane?

Bill Press says the theory of Intelligent Design (ID) “is nothing but poorly disguised religion” and claims since creationists could not force religion into our public schools, they have dressed it up as more palatable junk science. Government sponsored religion “is an edict you might expect to be ordered in from an ayatollah of Iran, the kind of top-down, force-fed religion from which Americans traditionally recoil,” he says.15 In his non-scholarly disgust for intelligent design, Press conflates a religious terror with a proper scientific pursuit.

Defaming God

Consider the way former atheist Antony Flew refers to a god in his book detailing how he changed his mind from atheism to the possibility a god might exist.

When responding to Dawkins’ idea that God is too complex to be a creator of the universe, Flew says this idea strikes him as bizarre and asks, “What is complex about the idea of an omnipotent and omniscient Spirit, an idea so simple that it is understood by all the adherents of the three great monotheistic religions?”16 This may be a generic way to describe God but it is accurate in a more scholarly and complimentary way than most evolutionists refer to God.

Matt Stopera at Buzzfeed asked 22 creationists to pose “challenges” to scientists regarding evolution. The previously cited Adam Rutherford then listed those questions followed by his responses. On the question of whether someone is scared of a divine creator, Rutherford responds:

Not nearly as much as I am scared of the Japanese Giant Hornet, which is bigger than your thumb, can fly at 25mph and has the added advantage of actually existing.17

Atheist Frank Zindler, in debating William Lane Craig, responds there are no ethical values “written in the stars” (a sarcastic reference to moral knowledge given to us by a god), and so there are no objective values.18 Of course, no Christian has ever suggested that our morality came from the stars.

Near the beginning of the production Evolution vs God, an unnamed evolutionist notes that he does not believe that there’s a “guy in the sky that lives in the sky”—a rather unscholarly dismissal of the existence of God since most religious people, Christians in particular, would not claim God is living up in the sky among the clouds.19

This same person later claims that he started to believe in evolution when he began to think for himself, but yet struggles when pressed to provide examples of observable evolution and whether we had lungs or gills when we evolved from fish.

Take God Seriously

The interesting thing about these instances, and probably more like them, is the failure to take seriously the proposition that a divine being exists, and specifically the Christian one. Rather, atheistic evolutionists make fun of such a proposition because, I think, they need to add intellectual baggage to their unbelief even while people like Dawkins take God’s existence seriously to a degree that he spends every page in a book explaining why believing in God is a “delusion.”

Readers of this essay should not be led into thinking that atheists and evolutionists engage in this type of sophistry and nothing else. They do write scholarly articles and engage in debates with creationists although I find most of their arguments are nonsense. The point of this essay is that they often resort to name calling as a backstop against theistic belief because either they don’t have any good retorts at the time to offer or don’t want to take the time to respond to religious claims with scholarly thoughts of their own.

Footnotes:

  1. Emma Goldman, “The Philosophy of Atheism,” S. T. Joshi, ed., Atheism: A Reader (New York: Prometheus, 2000), 54.
  2. Dan Barker is a former Christian preacher who left the faith to become an atheist activist.
  3. All quotations from Barker come from the Freedom from Religion Foundation web site: Dan Barker, “What is a Freethinker?” https://ffrf.org/faq/feeds/item/18391-what-is-a-freethinker
  4. https://freethoughtblogs.com/advertise-on-freethoughtblogs/
  5. Steve Allen, Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, & Morality (New York: Prometheus, 1990), 128-129.
  6. https://news.gallup.com/poll/21814/Evolution-Creationism-Intelligent-Design.aspx
  7. In my library I have, for instance, a copy of Duane Gish and Donald Rohrer’s Up with Creation! covering the Institute for Creation Research articles during the period of 1976-1977. It lists numerous debates held between creationists and evolutionists during this time period.
  8. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (New York, Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 319-320
  9. Phillip Johnson, “Creator or Blind Watchmaker,” First Things, April 1993, https://www.firstthings.com/article/1993/01/001-creator-or-blind-watchmaker
  10. Letters to the editor, First Things, April 1993, https://www.firstthings.com/article/1993/04/april-letters-33
  11. David Berlinski, “The Deniable Darwin,” Commentary, June 1996, 19-29. Letters to the editor addressing Berlinski’s article were published in the September 1996 issue.
  12. “Ben Stein’s movie Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HErmp5Pzqw&t=2924s
  13. Adam Rutherford, “22 Answers for Creationists from Someone who Understands Evolution,” https://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2014/feb/06/22-answers-creationism-evolution-bill-nye-ken-ham-debate
  14. Richard Dawkins, “Ignorance is No Crime,” Free Inquiry, Vol 21 No 3 Summer 2001, https://secularhumanism.org/2001/07/ignorance-is-no-crime/
  15. Bill Press, “Intelligent design… isn’t!,” Worldnet Daily, August 5 2005,
    http://www.wnd.com/ news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID; Article no longer appears there but now appears at https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-2005-08-10-0508090155-story.html
  16. Antony Flew, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 110-111
  17. Rutherford, previous citation.
  18. “Atheism vs. Christianity: Which Way Does the Evidence Point? (William Lane Craig vs Frank Zindler),” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuCA4rIX4cE&t=7609s
  19. Living Waters, “Evolution vs God,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0u3-2CGOMQ

Jeffry Stueber

Written by Jeffry Stueber

Jeff Stueber is an active member of the Lutheran Science Institute who has been published in their journals as well other scientifically minded publications. He uses the analytical skills honed by his accounting degree to research various creation and apologetics issues. Besides writing for the Creation Club you can also find his words at Vaste Wasteland of Unbelief.com

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